S. Africa suspends officials over fixing claims

The South African Football Association suspended its president

and four other officials Monday after a FIFA report into

match-fixing ahead of the 2010 World Cup found ”compelling

evidence” that one or more games were fixed by betting

syndicates.

In a statement Monday, the association said it issued an apology

to the world soccer body and said it would launch its own internal

investigation into the officials’ actions. As part of the

investigation, it said the association’s committee asked President

Kirsten Nematandani to ”take a voluntary leave of absence from his

position.”

Four other association officials – Dennis Mumble, Lindile `Ace’

Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane – also were asked to take

voluntary leave, the statement said. Mwelo Nonkonyana, the

association’s vice president, has taken over as interim

president.

”This is a difficult situation for the association, and for

those who have been named in the report,” Nonkonyana said in the

statement. ”We hope that there will be no speculation about their

presumed guilt or otherwise. We need to allow the investigation to

take place speedily and fairly, so those that are innocent can be

separated from those who are not.”

The association said Saturday that it had received the report

from FIFA on Friday. The association acknowledged then that it had

been ”infiltrated” two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer

Wilson Perumal and his ”bogus” football company Football4U, which

was a front for Asian betting syndicates.

No players have been implicated in fixing matches. Instead,

FIFA-approved referees appointed by Perumal’s Football4U were

thought to have manipulated one or more of South Africa’s World Cup

buildup games for betting markets. Perumal could have also been

aided by some South African officials, SAFA said.

SAFA didn’t immediately identify the games but South Africa’s

5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in late May 2010 –

two weeks before the World Cup kicked off – were under

suspicion.

Three penalties for handball were awarded by Niger referee

Ibrahim Chaibou in the South Africa-Guatemala game on May 31, with

two of them appearing to be incorrect. Chaibou is also being sought

for questioning by FIFA for his handling of other suspicious games

in Africa, Asia and South America, where a high number of penalties

were awarded, apparently to feed betting scams.

All three goals in the South Africa-Colombia game on May 27,

which was refereed by a Kenyan official, came from penalty kicks.

That match was the official opening of South Africa’s redeveloped

Soccer City showpiece stadium, which hosted Spain’s victory over

Netherlands in the World Cup final a little more than a month

later.

South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1

in preparation games ahead of the World Cup.

After allegations of fixing in the World Cup buildup, SAFA asked

FIFA to take over the investigation. The world football body began

looking at the matches in March this year.

Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP